Ocean Hermit – sailing, solitude and stories

My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.

* It’s official – conventional oil production is in decline

On the last day of last year – 2010 – a friend and I were talking about the state of the world and the possibilities for certain events in 2011. When I brought up the subjects of:

  1. peak oil and the likelihood of the price of oil increasing dramatically as global production falls, and
  2. the increasing the irregularity of weather patterns and the likelihood of riots due to increases in the price of food,

my friends eyes glazed over and he reacted with irritated impatience as if I asserting that Elvis Presley is still alive. So just in case you missed two major news items from these first two weeks of 2011:

  1. the International Energy Agency (IEA) in Switzerland admitted for the first time that the production of conventional crude oil (the stuff that comes from Saudi Arabia etc.) already peaked in 2006 and is now declining. Read more HERE.

Production will continue to decline at the rate of about 4  per cent per year.

Production from oil sands, deepwater drilling and probably the Arctic will continue to increase – so that the decline in overall oil production will be less.

However, an annual decline rate of just 2.5 % would mean total global oil production would  be about HALF current production within 30 years.

Long before that – what do you think would happen?  Prices double, triple or quadruple?

Extracting oil from one mile under the ocean (Gulf of Mexico) or two or more miles (off the coast of Brazil) is going to cost a hell of a lot more than oil from the Middle East, even when the cost of America’s almost 1000 military bases “securing” the region is not officially included in the price of oil.

“We’ll switch to alternatives” is the most common refrain I hear from people.

About two-thirds of oil is used for transportation. About 95% of transportation uses oil. The equivalent amount of total oil energy from nuclear power would require us to have already built 10,000 nuclear power plants around the world. This is not going to happen.

The electric car, for example, is not going to replace the internal combustion engine except for a few rich people. (A no-frills family car in North America currently costs about $24,000. The new Chevy Volt costs $42,000. How many families in America, who have seen their incomes stagnate for the past decade, can afford to pay so much extra? How will your community change when the great majority of people no longer own cars? )

Currently, there is no alternative for aviation fuel. So don’t put off that trip to the other side of the world for long, because cheap flights are not going to last much longer.

2) Food prices in India are currently rising at the rate of 17% per year – and that’s the government’s number (governments always under report inflation). Food riots in Tunisia were a major factor in the recent unrest that removed that country’s dictator after 23 years of support from the West. There was an excellent article from John W. Schoen of MSNBC.com a few days ago that explains what’s happening and why people in the West have not yet felt the impact.

“Strained by rising demand and battered by bad weather, the global food supply chain is stretched to the limit, sending prices soaring and sparking concerns about a repeat of food riots last seen three years ago.

Signs of the strain can be found from Australia to Argentina, Canada to Russia.

On Friday, Tunisia’s president fled the country after trying to quell deadly riots in the North African country by slashing prices on food staples.

“We are entering a danger territory,” Abdolreza Abbassian, chief economist at the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said last week.”

GO HERE to read the complete report.


The world is changing and the pace of change will increase over the coming years. The old paradigm:

of constantly expanding economies

fuelled by cheap energy

shoring up the mass-consumption of “democracatic” societies

is already obsolete. Elites and governments will do what they can to secure their own positions for as long as possible. But the critical crises of energy, environment and economics will frustrate the manipulations of even the most ruthless and media-savvy leaders.


What we can do, as individuals, is to:

wake up to what is already happening in the world,

work to safeguard as best we can ourselves and our loved ones from major disruptions

plan what sort of community/society/world we want our children to inhabit and work towards that future.

No, I’m not a doom and gloom person. I actually think the future will be better for humankind. But first we have to extract ourselves from the monster to which we are tethered


One comment on “* It’s official – conventional oil production is in decline

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This entry was posted on January 19, 2011 by in Current Affairs, Life Skills and tagged , , , .
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